San Francisco and Berkeley

San Francisco
Getting to San Francisco felt a lot like coming home. Cool weather (cold weather, really), grey light, relaxed atmosphere, none of the fake and over the top behaviour or too-carefully-crafted bodies of LA – we toyed with the idea of giving up the rest of the trip and just staying put!
We did a lot of touristy things – walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, doing a walking tour of the Mission District, taking photos of seriously enormous seagulls, climbing enormous hills, etc – as well as a lot of lounging around and watching the world go by.

Let’s get real though, you all really just care about the food!
We were very hungry when we got to SF, after a long morning of driving an RV, mucking around with public transport and meeting our wonderful Couch Surfing hosts, and we were very happily surprised to find that the ordinary-looking local chinese joint at the bus stop just happened to have a veg menu along side its omni one.
Crazy Pepperhad such great food, and such cheap prices, I’m not sure why we didn’t go back again during our stay. We got the lunch special which started with Hot and Sour Soup (so good in the very cold weather!), then any choice off the menu, made with soy meat instead of animal flesh, egg rolls (which we turned down – not vegan) and lots and lots of tea.

Meatless menu
Terrible photo of really good food - Ma Po Tofu and Lemongrass Tofu

Crazy Pepper is across the road from the Balboa Park BART Station, and its worth a look for some yummy and cheap vegan nosh, outside of the city.
Love and Haight and Herbivore both became our main eateries when we were staying near the Haight Ashbury area in an AirBnB place.
Love and Haightis an omni sandwich place on Haight Street, which has a nice big vegan and veg menu. We tried every vegan option over the course of a week, including vegan BBQ, vegan pepper steak, vegan chicken steak,  felafel, plain mock chicken, and a huge vegan cookie. Our faves were the pepper steak and the BBQ. I found the cookie a little too salty, as with most USian baked goods, but nice and chewy.

BBQ Sandwich at Love N Haight

The first time we went to Herbivore, a vegan restaurant on Divisadero, we were thoroughly underwhelmed by what we ate, with the exception of the truly awesome milkshake (made with fruit and coconut ice cream). We tried the shish kabob and the mac and cheese, both of which were very bland.  was particularly disappointed with the mac and cheese, which was watery, bland and not at all like the cheesy, creamy comfort food I was looking for.

Seriously good strawberry milkshake

We went back though, to try to figure out what everyone else was talking about. I’m glad we did, because our second and third tries (we got a little hooked) were much better.
We tried the Shwarma wrap with soy chicken (on the recommendation of our AirBnB housemate, who wasn’t wrong!), the BBQ sandwich, a burrito (which again was a little bland), the German chocolate cake, and doughnuts with chocolate ice cream.

Sandwich at Herbivore
Shwarma wrap
German chocolate cake and a lemon doughnut for later

Our last noteworthy food outing in SF was Gracias Madre. We went the day after trying Saturn Cafe in Berkely, which may have been a mistake – I really wanted some fresh tasting, light food, and what we got was rich and heavy. On another day though, I think we would have enjoyed Gracias Madre a lot more.
We ordered the Gorditas, Mole Enchiladas and Flan (taking K’s note not to over order!). The gorditas were good, though a huge serving size for a starter. The enchiladas were okay, but too rich and smokey for us, and again, a huge serving. The flan was fantastic – such an interesting creamy texture. I don’t seem to have any photos from Gracias Madre – my camera battery died during the mural tour.
Check out InTheMoodForNoddles for another recent Melbournian review of Gracias Madre.

Just near SF is Berkeley, a relaxed university town with a ton of vegan food.
We came to Berkeley because we wanted to meet a couch surfer who seemed nice (Hi Lee!), and we’re very glad we did. Two vegan food joints stood out for us while we were there: Green Papaya, a thai veg place, and Saturn Cafe, a funky veg diner.
Green Papaya was fantastic! I was very excited to see larb on the menu, though a little apprehensive, as I haven’t had a decent larb since going vegetarian – veg versions I have tried in Melbourne and Sydney always fall short of the spicy, tangy, herby, sweaty-sock flavour of the real thing. We ordered that, and some eggplant and tofu, pad thai and a thai iced tea.
I wasn’t disappointed – it was the very best larb I have had since going veg, and tasted precisely how I remember larb tasting in my pre-veg days. I don’t know what they used to sub the fish sauce, but I think I will write to them and ask. Mr has the photos of this one, so I’ll try to add them later.
The eggplant dish was good also, and Mr loved the pad thai, though I found it a little odd to my tastes – sweeter and less salty than I like it, and with hated vermicelli instead of the wider stick noodles.
If we had had more time in Berkeley, I probably would have gone back to try more of the menu – great food 🙂
Saturn Cafeis a big, sparkly, pink and silver diner across the road from the University. We just happened to come across it on its birthday, so we were treated to balloons and streamers, and free ice cream and cup cakes.

Happy Birthday Saturn Cafe!

The cafe boasts a deliciously junky menu, and it was very hard top pick between all day breakfasts of pan cakes and french toast, and lunch items like nachos and burgers. In the end we ordered home fries (which come slathered in Daiya cheese and veganaise, and a quesadilla.

Cheesey home fries
Quesadilla and chips

The fries were wonderful, and the quesadilla was good, though Mr (who forgot what a quesadilla was when he ordered it) was disappointed that it wasn’t bigger and with more filling, however this was an ordering mistake, not a failure in the food.
We had some free cinnamon swirl ice cream and mini cupcakes, which totally made my day too – creamiest vegan ice cream I’ve ever had.

Free treats!

It was all pretty good, though I’m glad we don’t live around the corner from this place – I’d never cook again.

Now we are in Portland, so you can look forward to heaps and heaps of vegan restaurant reviews in the near future!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. K says:

    Thanks for the link. Hope you love Portland, have to eat at home grown smoker and about a thousand other places!

  2. Lee says:

    Hi Keira and Sky,

    I met you when you couchsurfed at my place in Berkeley. a few years ago. I couple years ago I got married and moved about a mile away from Crazy Pepper. My wife and step-daughter are also vegetarian, and we frequent Crazy Pepper often. Hope things are going well with you.


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